Ancient Christmas Bugout Wisdom

by David Morris on December 23, 2011

This week’s newsletter is on the lighter side, and is brought to you by my Fastest Way to Prepare survival course.

The core of it comes from an article I wrote last Christmas called “Mary and Joseph’s 90 Mile Bugout” that I added to this year.  Even though it is light hearted, there are some great lessons, so enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas!

Like politics, the desire to prepare to survive crosses religious lines.  I’m fortunate enough to have readers and get feedback from people from all religious persuasions. That being said, I’m a Christian, and Christmas is my 2nd favorite holiday of the year (after Easter.)  In the spirit of the season and preparedness, I was in a conversation about how far Joseph and Mary walked when they made their trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census and Jesus’ birth and what supplies they might have had with them.

I’m not trying to be exact with the numbers and assumptions below.  If you have researched any of this, or have first hand knowledge, please share by commenting below.

As the crow flies, it’s about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Walking, it’s between 80 and 90 miles, depending on which route you take.  Mary could have been one tough cookie and walked 39 weeks into her pregnancy, but I think it’s safe to assume that she rode on a donkey.

A good rule of thumb for a sustained walking/hiking rate of travel with a light load is 3-4 miles per hour.  If Joseph and the donkey kept up 3 mile per hour pace for the whole trip and walked 7 hours a day, it would have taken 3 ½ days.  People had to be more hearty in those times and I have no doubt that Joseph could have made better time, but I’m assuming that he stopped frequently to tend to Mary.

Again, this isn’t a technical account…just trivia…so let’s assume that a donkey uses roughly the same number of calories and water as a person.  If you know a lot about donkeys, please chime in with the facts by commenting below.

On the water side, we can estimate that all 3 consumed a liter of water per hour while they were walking and at least another 4 liters for evening drinking, meals, and hygiene for a total of 33 liters or just over 8 gallons per day and 25 gallons for the trip…minimum.  If they would have carried all of their water and not gathered any, it would have weighed about 210 pounds.  More than likely, they would have had a few water containers and tanked up themselves and their containers repeatedly during the journey.

For food, let’s assume that all 3 of them burned up 1500 calories per day while resting.  In addition, Joseph and the donkey would burn up about 100 calories per mile, or another 9000 calories apiece for a total of 9000×2+1500×3 (2 people+1 donkey)x3 ½ days=18,000+15,750=33,750 calories for the trip.

Flat bread contains about 100 calories per ounce and whole wheat is approximately the same, so if they ate nothing but bread, they would have needed 337 ounces or just over 20 pounds of bread/wheat for the trip there and another 20 pounds for the trip back home.  It’s likely that they could have taken only 20 pounds of bread and enough coinage or oils to buy another 20 pounds in Bethlehem.

They probably didn’t JUST have bread.  Figs have about 80 calories per ounce and fish have 30-50 calories per ounce.  Figs and fish may not have as many calories per ounce, but they do pack more calories into a smaller package.

They didn’t have electronics, so they didn’t need to carry batteries.  They didn’t have guns, so they didn’t need to carry ammo.  They probably had some reed mats, blankets, some extra clothes, a knife or two, a staff or walking stick, cups, cooking materials, something to make fire, cordage, and some leather tools to fix their shoes if necessary.

I have a theory that due to their anti-viral/bacterial/fungal properties that frankincense oil and myrrh could have been worth more than gold at the time, so they could have had a couple vials of them as well.  They probably had a few extra supplies along in case Mary went into labor, but probably nothing too heavy.

If part of your disaster survival plan involves bugging out, you really need to work out similar numbers…

How many miles is it? How much fuel will you need, if you can drive? How long would it take to walk? What’s your pace with no load? What’s your pace with a load? How much does that load weigh? Is there food, water, and materials for shelter along the way, or do you need to self support? If you can’t carry all that you need, should you cache supplies? Are your shoes/clothes rugged enough for the trip? Do you have lightweight repair supplies with multiple uses? (My grandpa used to use Shoe-Goo as a cure all…and he was proven right more times than not 🙂

Similarly, do you have triggers in place so that you know when to leave? Once one of your triggers gets tripped, do you know how quickly you can be on the road?

Last week I did another 10 minute drill. A 10 minute drill is when you decide that you’re going to leave for an overnight trip (or longer) with only 10 minutes notice. 10 minutes is an INCREDIBLY short time. It’s basically enough time to take bags from your house that you already have packed and put them in your vehicle.

There’s no time for deciding what to take.

There’s no time for packing.

There’s no time for planning.

10 minutes only gives you enough time to grab and go.

One thing that I didn’t bring with me was important documents. I did open my safe, grab my pre-sorted pile of documents and act like I was putting them in a bag to take, but I put them back in the safe and only had digital versions with me. The reason I went through the motions was to account for it from a time perspective.

This was a good drill for me…I’ve had 10 minute drills take 45 minutes. This time, from the time I decided it was “go” time until I was rolling was 9 minutes. I don’t say that to brag…just to let you know that it is possible.

Every time I do a 10 minute drill, I forget something. (For me, this is just like camping.) Usually, “forget” isn’t the right word. It’d be more accurate to say that I realize that I used something from my go-bag without replacing it. This time, it was my coat. Fortunately, I had a fleece and insulated coveralls, if needed, to keep warm and both a real poncho and an emergency poncho in case there was rain.

It may interest you to know how my supplies worked out…

I have a small toiletry bag that goes in my checked luggage whenever I travel. It has vitamins, supplements that I take when I start feeling ill, my toiletry items, a couple of knives, multi-tools, and fire starters. I don’t use items out of this kit when I’m home…it’s strictly for travel.

Next, I have my backpack set up for both camping/hiking and as a 72 hour kit. I know that is going to be a “Master of the Obvious” statement for many of you, but it’s worth saying. My backpack is always ready to hit the trail. I store it with enough emergency rations for my wife, me, and our 2 boys for 3 days. When we actually go camping, I pull out the rations and put in more palatable food. That doesn’t mean that the pack is ideally set up ideally for a survival situation, but it does mean that I’ll have the basics of fire, water, shelter, food, minor medical, and limited toiletries taken care of. In addition, rather than having a backpack that I use and a 72 hour kit that just sits in a closet untested, I’m quite familiar and comfortable with my gear.

In my truck, I’ve always got some water, food bars, my car 72 hour kit, my EMT med kit, as well as extra clothes. Most of the items in my backpack are well built. They’re high quality items that stand up to repeated use…in some cases over 10 years and hundreds of nights of use and abuse. Most of the items in my car 72 hour kit are compact, lightweight, and intended for one use or a handful of uses.

What did I do on my 10 minute drill? Drove my truck out in the middle of the woods and camped out overnight. It wasn’t fancy, but it was fun.

Something to keep in mind is that you can break this drill down into it’s component parts to make it easier to do. As an example, if you’ve got kids you might want to plan your first 10 minute drill so that you spend the night at a hotel with an indoor pool rather than adding in the additional complexity of camping. There are several reasons for this, among them being that you’ll be more likely to get your family to buy into doing another 10 minute drill if the first one is fun. Another is that the fewer obstacles you put in the path of doing a 10 minute drill, the more likely it’ll be that you actually do them.

And, with that, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Thank you to each and every one of you for joining me on my mission to make the country more resilient by helping as many individuals as possible become more self-reliant.

So, if you can, take a breather for a few days. Soak in time with your friends and family. Enjoy the moment and try to completely ignore as many problems as you can. And, as you’re enjoying time together, remember to stop and take mental snapshots to lock in as many happy memories as you can.  I like to visualize putting these snapshots in a safe in my mind that I can go back to in the future when I need a pick-me-up.

God bless, stay safe, and have a very Merry Christmas!


David Morris

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Vote -1 Vote +1Michael Isenhour
December 23, 2011 at 6:34 am

Great artical and glad I found the site , am going to extend invitations to several others


Vote -1 Vote +1gale
December 23, 2011 at 6:48 am

Wondering what others do about keeping water in their vehicle in the winter in cold areas. I carried it the rest of the year, but my husband removed it when winter weather arrived.


Vote -1 Vote +1Nancy
December 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Why couldn’t you just pour some of the water out of the jugs, like you do when you freeze liquids in the freezer? And maybe keep some blankets around them so they don’t freeze solid? If you’re even stuck on the highway in a snow storm, you’ll need water to drink…


Vote -1 Vote +1Gloria
December 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I carry water, only in the freezing weather time I let some of it out of the jug. This way it can freeze and won’t pop the lid. Hope this helps.


Vote -1 Vote +1Elaine Brock
December 24, 2011 at 12:42 am

I have 2 gallon jugs that I only fill 3/4 of the way so as to give it space for freezing.Bottled water does not work.They have too much water in them if it freezes and the plastic tends to crack.


Vote -1 Vote +1Craig
December 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Put the water in clear juice containers marked with a 1 inside of the recycle triangle. These can freeze and defrost without breaking. You can also use them as thermal ballast in your refrigerator and freezer.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1kaytee
December 23, 2011 at 7:30 am

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, to you, too!


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Mike Davis
December 23, 2011 at 8:15 am

Thank you for sharing your survival & bugout thoughts on Mary & Joseph. To put things in a real sense, this does it quite nicely. We often think that we can just hop in the car and go, but the situation may not always be that simple. To have a plan to leave on foot and to be able implement that plan in 10 minutes or less is a great object lesson.

I particularly like the reminder to enjoy the season. Put the memories in your happy place and enjoy them from time to time. Life moves so quickly. If you are truly prepared, it is so much easier to relax.

May God bless you and your family. Merry Christmas,.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bret Niemeyer
December 23, 2011 at 8:28 am

Many of you equipment, gear and kit lists recommended are based on what you have found to work best with significant testing. Do you have any recommendations for vehicles, specifically, trucks, SUV’s, 4×4 given projected oil cost increases.


Vote -1 Vote +1Roger W. Grim D.C.
December 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

Merry Christ-mas…..David, My Wife Lettie & I really appreciate all the work you do for all of us, keeping us updated in what’s going on around us. You are very informative on all fronts, you have helped not only Lettie & I but multitudes of others. From my young age as a Boy Scout, I have always been and still am at age 73 going on 74 an avid camper & hiker, and always ready to throw the packs in the car to bug out if necessary. Even though I have always been a person that’s prepared….but you put the “iCEING ON THE CAKE” THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU….AND WHAT YOU DO FOR US…. HAVE A BLESSED CHRIST-MAS Roger & Lettie


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Gary Capron
December 23, 2011 at 9:44 am

Thank you for another great article. May the Lord bless you and yours and have a very Marry and blessed Christmas.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bill Martin
December 23, 2011 at 9:59 am

That`s good info David.I`ve been lost in the Ozark Mountains in a snow storm,and in the big woods of south west Arkansas more than once,and fought in world war two and Korea.By using your method of planning ahead for emergency`s you are more able to survive.Thanks for renewing my mind of the importance of my old boy scout motto “BE PREPARED”.HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS.


Vote -1 Vote +1dave
December 23, 2011 at 10:13 am




+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Scott Becker
December 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

Hey Dave, thanks for the great analysis and light tone!
Good stuff, especially the Frankincense and Myrrh idea.
I think you’re right. In fact, as new “resistant” strains emerge, I think more folks will recognize the utility of those complex, naturally occurring, essential oils with antibiotic qualities.
Anyway, the article was cool enough that I just put up a link encouraging my readers to check it out.
And thanks for keeping the focus on that baby!
Have a wonderfully blessed Christmas,


Vote -1 Vote +1dog
December 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

david, as always thanks very much for all that you do, your time and great information.
also the readers for their idea’s and thoughts. i continue to learn alot but still have
alittle ways to go. always leave one’s mind open to learning more.
wishing everyone a merry christmas and a happy new years.
god bless to all and take care.


Vote -1 Vote +1Janet Liebsch
December 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Thank you David .. for all you have done and continue to do to help people prepare. Bill and I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and a new year filled with joy and good health! 🙂 Stay safe, j & B


Vote -1 Vote +1Mark Baum
December 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hi I live in a cold climate and cann’t keep water in my car so I keep an empty canteen in my backpack that I can fill if I’m going to need it. The best I can come up with right now. I always have my backpack in my car. I commute thirty miles each day for work.


Vote -1 Vote +1krys
December 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Hi David – Another winner – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year too All.


Vote -1 Vote +1joseph morehouse
December 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Thank you,Happy Hanukkah and Merry Chirstmas!


Vote -1 Vote +1Bill Fellion
December 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm

David, Thank you. And all the best to you and yours over Christmas. I was also wondering from one of your articles from away back how you stitch a wound with crazy glue. Isn’t that dangerous? Thanks bill


Vote -1 Vote +1Gloria
December 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas David. Thank you for another great posting.
I had forgotten about the drills, silly me. The day before I had to dash to the doctors appointment I was running around with out my head so to speak. I made up the bags that would go with me and totally just didn’t function. NOW I am thinking about what went with and what I should have taken. Oh the doctors trip is 158 miles over three mountain passes which two of them gets snow regularly. That’s almost an overnight thingy it starts in the dark and ends over 18 hours later. LOL anyway now I see where I have to get back into the drills and changing up the go bags. Thank you. Cute story line about Mary and Joseph on the road. :>)


Vote -1 Vote +1Jo
December 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Loved the article, as always. Question: What is a safe method (i.e. container) to store water in a vehicle? I see a couple of folks have trouble in winter – this is no surprise. But what about storage any other time of the year? I know plastic bottles of water are definitely not safe – any suggestions for a better container?


-1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
December 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Plastic isn’t the best option, but it’s our main choice. We also have water in mylar pouches, but they’re too expensive for our taste.


Vote -1 Vote +1Dennis Kight
December 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Great article. Thanks for your devotion to surviving.
God Bless you and your family.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Vote -1 Vote +1Thinker
December 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm

You can fill a plastic bottle about 7/8 full with water and with the cap off, let it freeze. The water will expand when it freezes. Put the cap back back on and put it in your car for the winter. Works great, I have been doing this for years without a problem. For those with who want a better explanation – by freezing the water first, you drive out the expansion air in the bottle. Putting the cap back on at this point locks the system. If the water thaws, it sucks in the sides of the plastic bottle. Not a problem – if it freezes again, you are back to where you started from. Just don’t think you can stick some store bought plastic bottled water in the trunk and it is the same thing – it is not.


Vote -1 Vote +1sherie
December 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm

haven’t tried it yet but have heard that an ice chest will keep things from freezing such as bottled water in the trunk of the car


Vote -1 Vote +1Wally
December 23, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Merry Christmas. I enjoyed the article and have given it a lot of thought. First it seems to me that you are a little light on the calories. 2000-2500 seems more suitable. I always carry a BOB in my truck and my wife’s truck. Both packed the same for 2 people. When we are going somewhere I always put a food We have written lists so we don’t have to think. Just grab and go. Every practice brings out something we didn’t think about.


Vote -1 Vote +1Chris
December 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm

David, Merry Christmas.
Very nice, OK I am ready for the 6 hour or less bug out, that Joseph and Mary including the baby / infant Jesus had to do the night after the Wise men visited earlier in the day. Off to Egypt, of course they had some gifts from the Wise men. Wise men bugged out back east, but they were already prepared. Also, Have a Good New Year. Chris


Vote -1 Vote +1Dennis Dodge
December 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm

David, a few more facts on the story of Joseph & Mary. It is likely that Joseph and Mary did not take a straighline route from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as that would have taken them through a territory Jewish people studiously avoided {Samaritan}. Thus they would have headed east to the Jordan valley and then up to Jerusalem likely from Jericho. This latter part is a very steep incline as it is approximately 13 miles with a rise of about 3000 feet. Likely Mary staying on the donkey was not possible in this part of the journey. So, more calories consumed , more water taken in, and more time expended.

Also, Mary had a preparation for a death that few think of. Remember Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes when laying in the manger? Those strips of cloth were on Mary’s body incase the birth took place on the trip and mother/child? should die. The strips of cloth would be used to wrap the body for burial. For more of this type of info – check out “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” by Edersheim.


Vote -1 Vote +1D.B. Donahoe
December 23, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Thanks for all you do. God Bless you & yours…have a Merry Christmas and may every New Year be better than the last.


Vote -1 Vote +1Johnny B Goode
December 24, 2011 at 2:44 am

Super glue was originally developed during the Vietnam conflict as an emergency battlefield wound dressing. Stung like hell but you didn’t bleed out.


Vote -1 Vote +1Jerry
December 24, 2011 at 3:09 am

Is the planet over 60 million years old, and do you believe in dinasourses


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
December 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Whether I “believe” in dinosaurs or not doesn’t really matter…I’ve walked in the tracks of dinosaurs and I’ve held bones that are bigger than my sons that don’t belong to any species currently living. 🙂


Vote -1 Vote +1Brian
December 24, 2011 at 5:15 am

An excellent artical, David, as always.
Merry Christmas to you and your family, too.


Vote -1 Vote +1Jerry
December 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I have water in my “Go bags” in Wiscosin all year – use the heavier plastic water bottles (I like the square ones – they pack nicer) Take a good drink out of each one an put the top back on! It works – try it in your freezer. We keep 1/2 gal jugs of apple cider for special occasions frozen for 6 months – just leave them room to expand and they will be fine!
Merry Christmas to all of your!!


Vote -1 Vote +1dog
December 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm

bill fellion, there is a surgical super glue and it works very good for many wounds.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
December 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm

It’s called Dermabond and it’s awesome stuff, but E X P E N S I V E.


Vote -1 Vote +1Ted
December 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Dear David —

Cold weather is always a possibility – and a problem for auto water storage. I use a “folding” 5-galloin camping jug which, if not filled with water to the very top, can sustain a freeze/thaw cycle without very much damage, and provides the necessary hydration for a considerable period. Blessings to you and yours.



+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Ted
December 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Dear David —

Cold weather is always a possibility – and a problem for auto water storage. I use a “folding” 5-gallon camping jug which, if not filled with water to the very top, can sustain a freeze/thaw cycle without very much damage, and provides the necessary hydration for a considerable period. Blessings to you and yours.



Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
December 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm

That’s a great solution…any findings on how many freeze/thaw cycles the plastic will take?

We use either thick 1 gallon plastic water jugs from the grocery store or 12-20 ounce plastic water bottles with the thickest plastic we can find. In addition to keeping them in the car throughout the winter, we’ll store them frozen in our freezer and put them in coolers in our car for trips. We haven’t found a hard and fast rule, but it seems like the plastic starts having a higher rate of failure after 5-10 hard freezes.


Vote -1 Vote +1J Payne
December 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I find that the gallon sun tea jars work well for storage of water in the car, only filling them 3/4 full (leaving a space of 2″). I freeze it and the vacumn aspect is taken care of for the thaw – freeze cycle. It is also convenient for the children to get a drink. It fits well inside
a round Gott cooler. Another container that I used while living in Africa was the 5 gallon jugs that come with a water cooler, now there I didn’t worry about freezing, but lack of safe water.
It is a much thicker plastic and does not ‘out-gas’.


Vote -1 Vote +1Patty Gillette
December 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Great article! It’s been several years, (1989) sence the Earth Quake hit the San Francisco Area.. My husband and kids had moved from Detroit, a few years earlier, so this was quite the ‘wake up’ call to us!
My late husband and I decided to put together Emergency Kits, and sell them. We sold many… all were ‘custom’, specific to the purchaser – did they have children, how many, and their ages? Did they have a pet? etc.
The kits were compact enough but stuffed full, to fit in one of those flip top storage crates. (depending on the size of the family it was to ‘serve’) the kits sold for an average of $150, and contained everything from a small tool kit, firstaid kit, to a two man backpack tent and even an expandable ‘fence’ if a pet was involved!
That business slowly fizzled out after a few years, and the public ‘fear’ deminished.
I still have my kit, as does my now adult kids and grandkids, and we rotate the supplies within it on a three month schedule.
Good for you to keep this first and foremost in peoples minds! God bless you!!!
Be well and SURVIVE to ‘serve’ HIM!


Vote -1 Vote +1Wm Scarlett
December 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Your idea to power the LED string of lights with a battery harness holding 8 AA batteries seems like a fine idea but for those of us who are short on electronics, an inverter must likely be used but how do you connect the harness to the lights? Thanks


Vote -1 Vote +1Heather
December 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

This was a nice posting, but what about the REAL Christmas Bugout?

Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a Roman census even though they were citizens of the Jewish nation. This journey was planned because it was a requirement of all people under Roman jurisdiction. The REAL bugout story started because of political jealousy, threat of foreign alliances with countries of the East, and the lust for continued power and wealth. Wise men who were kings of countries or provinces in the East saw a star in the heavens and understood that a new king had been born in Israel. Naturally, they traveled to the King’s Palace in Israel to pay respects and offer gifts to the new baby because of the common assumption that a birth of a king would occur in a palace.

Herod the King knew nothing of a birth of a new King, and may have sent the wise men away with a laugh except he noticed the very expensive gifts that accompanied the men and their entourage. Herod asked the wise men to locate the child and then return to the palace to give the exact location of the child so that he too could go and worship the new king. Knowing human nature and how insecure political rulers are at their core, one can guess what happened next. King Herod became increasingly worried about his own political status, power, and wealth. Herod called in his political advisors who informed him of prophesies concerning the birth of a King of Israel who would be born in Bethlehem. So, he decided to eliminate any competition. Herod ordered the execution of all baby boys in the region.

Finding Jesus, the wise men worshiped him and gave the gifts. Later, Joseph was warned by an Angel of the Lord in a dream that he needed to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt and remain there until further instruction. Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaped, traveling in the middle of the night, and were sparred the horror of the mass execution of innocent life.

Night travel was dangerous in that era. Imagine Mary’s inquisitive expression when Joseph awakened her and announced that the family had to leave immediately. Imagine how they had to quickly determine what was essential and what would have to be left behind. Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have worried about their safety, and wondered how long they would be displaced, where they would stay, how they would contact relatives etc. These same concerns transcend time because they are part of our human experience. To deny the possibility of having to bugout is to deny that political leaders in your region may succumb to jealousy, greed, lust for power and control, etc., and may institute policies unfavorable to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As we bring in the New Year, may we promote peace by preparing for the unknown.
God Bless…


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Christine
January 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I would love your take on Joseph and Mary’s trek to Egypt when they had a child whom so many soldiers had orders to kill. They would be gone a longer time, have to travel farther (and faster), they would have to avoid certain folks as well as most towns and, depending on whether you believe the Kings got there the night Jesus was born or they came by sometime in the first two years of Jesus’ life, they either have a virtual newborn or a toddler. Now THAT would be a fascinating article! 😉


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